Imagine that you are a husband calling to ask about the dinner menu and are told “collard greens”. This happened to Kyle the other night. He is often intrigued by the unique things I’ll fix for dinner and is usually excited about them. Last night the answer to his question was “collard greens and rice with mushrooms”. There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.

Now in Kyle’s defense, I know that greens are not his favorite thing to eat. After being told that he didn’t like spinach, I fixed my favorite spinach dish – fresh spinach sautéed with olive oil and tossed with garlic, toasted pine nuts, and fresh chunks of tomato. How could anyone not like that combination? Kyle tried it and again emphasized that spinach really wasn’t his thing. Well – collard greens are not spinach so I figured it was worth a try. Besides, we live in the South. You HAVE to eat collard greens in the South, don’t you?

Most recipes for collard greens require ham hocks or bacon or some other part of a pig for flavoring. I’ve tried fixing collard greens in the past and they were never very good. After many discussions with folks who have been cooking collard greens their whole lives, and some inspiration from a local hospital which fixes a vegetarian version, I decided to try again. This time I would also try them on Kyle.  The key is FRESH collard greens. The frozen greens have too much of the stem and the pieces are way too small. I tore the bunches into large pieces and did a quick 10 minute boil in veggie broth. The leaves were large enough for me to remove them easily from the broth after the 10-minute boil. I tossed them with some garlic and red pepper that I had sautéed in olive oil while the leaves were boiling. Then, back into the simmering broth for another thirty minutes and they were done.

The verdict? Wow – these are good! Kyle entered the kitchen, sniffed suspiciously, and cautiously said “It smells good in here!” There was a small look of distrust on his face as I placed the plate piled high with rice and collard greens in front of him. A cautious forkful later and Kyle’s verdict was also, “Wow – these are good!”.  I’ll provide a real recipe after I’ve made them again with the same positive results. For now, just know that it is possible to make a vegetarian version of collard greens that really taste good!